Not sure if you are independent or dependent? Read our page about are You Dependent or Independent Student?
photo credit Celal Teber
If your mother or father is single or widowed, answer the FAFSA questions about that parent. If your widowed parent is remarried as of today, answer the questions about that parent and your stepparent.
What if my parents are divorced or separated?
Beginning in 2024 - 25, this has changed. Now, if your parents are divorced or separated, answer the FAFSA questions about the parent providing the most financial support during thee last 12 months or most recent year that you received support (previously it was the one you lived with the most during the past 12 months). If that parent is remarried as of today, answer the FAFSA parental financial questions about that parent and your stepparent.
Do I need to include my stepparent financial information on the FAFSA financial aid form?
It depends. Yes, if (1) Your mom or dad was widowed and now remarried (2) That parent and step parent provide the most financial support, which includes the step parent if that parent was remarried.
Does this mean if I live with my mom who makes very little money, I can get a full scholarship to a top private school, without worrying about my dad who is a multi-millionaire who disowns us?
Probably not, but like everything, it depends. Some private schools require a CSS Profile application from the non-custodial parent, in addition to the FAFSA. Of course if your GPA is 4.7, you are top of your high school class, captain of the debate team, who knows. Schools are much more likely to offer generous financial aid packages to deserving top students.
The biggest mistake people make is not applying. About 10% of subsidized loans go to students with family incomes over $100,000 per year.
What if one of my parents still refuses to cooperate and provide their financial information? Does that make me ineligible for financial aid?
Beginning with the application for 2024 - 2025, all contributors are required to have a FSA ID and submit to have their Federal Tax Information (FTI) transferred from the IRS, have their tax data used to determine a student's eligibility for federal student aid, and allow the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to share their tax information. If a parent won't cooperate, you should submit the FAFSA financial aid form without that information, and follow up with the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend. You will likely only be eligible for a direct, unsubsidized student loan.
All students are eligible for unsubsidized Stafford federal student loans. There are also many scholarships that are not based upon financial need. For example, you may be a National Merit Scholar and receive a scholarship because of your outstanding scores on the PSAT test, not because of financial need. There are also many other merit based scholarships for college.
What if I can’t contact my parents for this information?
There are some unusual situations where you may also submit without information from your parents. For example, if your parents are incarcerated; if you have left home due to abusive family environment; or if you do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them. Additional unusual situations now include human trafficking, legally granted refugee or asylum status and are separated from your parents, parents are displaced in a foreign country, parental abandonment or estrangement. In these situations, you should submit the FAFSA student loan application without the parent information, and follow up with the financial aid offices. There are many types of financial aid for college students, and they will work with you to provide the best financial aid package for your situation.
FAFSA Application - The 2024-25 application will be available in December 2023. The 2023 - 24 application is available now.